Performing Arts: Dance
December 14, 2019
Acclaimed pianist Simone Dinnerstein sat at the grand piano, center stage, for the entire seventy-five minutes of New Work for Goldberg Variations (2017), her collaboration with Pam Tanowitz Dance. The central placement of Dinnerstein, and her impeccable musicianship, made for a symbiotic and equalizing interplay between music and dancers onstage. Ms. Dinnerstein even appeared barefoot, like the dancers, and knowing glances and small moments of camaraderie were exchanged throughout the work.

Tanowitz has a grasp of the complexities of the score and created a work that responded nicely to Bach’s series of inventions, and it was certainly different than other interpretations (Jerome Robbins’ comes to mind). What was most problematic was already knowing what I was in for: there were few real surprises and no indelible moments.

Charles Rosen wrote, The ‘Goldberg’ variations is a social work; it was meant principally to "delight, and it instructs only as it charms" and that is what Tanowitz delivered: a well-constructed series of dutiful, sweet, unmannered, moments. Although the audience seemed excited and the buzz has been everywhere, to Tanowitz’ “unflinching postmodern treatment of classical dance vocabulary” has exhausted its possibilities: it’s – dare I say – unexciting?

The collaboration featured Jason Collins, Christine Flores, Lindsey Jones, Maile Okamura, Melissa Toogood, and Netta Yerushalmy, all accomplished artists in their own right. The absence of Victor Lozano, who was ill but not replaced, did not seem to matter. Costumed in short tunics with vertical blocks of soft color and sheer pants in soft shades of blue, orange, and yellow by Reide Bartelme and Harriet Jung, each dancer brought a lovely and personal quality to a movement vocabulary that conjured both Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor’s work at different times. Christine Flores stood out for her lightning-quick and expansive jumps, and everyone was pleasant to watch. The sometimes-harsh lighting by Davison Scandrett jolted us a few times.

Tanowitz has spent decades as a NYC freelance choreographer, and has received plenty of support and recognition, including Guggenheim and BAC fellowships, Bessie awards, commissions from the Joyce, Kennedy Center, and more. Last year she finally broke through the glass ceiling that few outsiders can manage: commissions from the New York City Ballet, the Royal Ballet, the Martha Graham company, and more. So much sudden high-profile visibility creates higher expectations. Now that Tanowitz has caught the attention of the big leagues – and she is clearly capable – some in the crowd will want to see more.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

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